‘The Front Page’ takes SMC's Studio Stage

Chicago, Ill., 1928 - a year in which corruption runs wild and the city's dozen newspaper outlets will do anything to get the inside story. Santa Monica, Calif., 2012 - The Santa Monica College Theatre Arts Department presents ‘The Front Page,’ directed by Dr. Janie Jones, and written over 80 years ago by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.

The curtains open on grouchy, ill-mannered newspaper reporters in the pressroom of the Criminal Courts building in Chicago. Awaiting the hanging of Earl Williams, an alleged revolutionary and convicted murderer, the pressmen wisecrack at each other’s expense and speculate over Hildy Johnson’s job status at the Examiner.

Hildy Johnson (Christopher Brisson) is the star reporter of the Examiner, but is dead-set on leaving the paper to get married and move to New York City.

When Earl Williams escapes from prison, Johnson is faced with the difficult decision of going after the biggest story of his career, or getting on the train to the Big Apple.

The first thing that is evident is the play’s accelerated dialogue. The witty banter and harsh wisecracks provide hearty laughs throughout. Praise to the cast’s ability to memorize their lines and deliver them in true, 1920s fashion.

Though the execution is commendable, the clarity of the dialogue is lost at the speed that it is delivered, thus leaving the audience in a mild state of confusion.

One thing that is not at all confusing is the fashion direction of the play. The costumes are not only appropriate for the time setting, but also quite beautiful. Costume Coordinator, Kristie Rutledge shows a deep understanding of 1920s fashion, and dresses the cast in spectacular garb.

Particularly notable is a gorgeous pink, blush dress worn by Peggy (Sarah Oliver) - Hildy Johnson’s fiancée. The dress is stunning and enough to make anyone wish 1920s’ fashion would make a comeback.

It’s marvelous to see how the cast of ‘The Front Page’ manages to make dated characters their own. Originally, writers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur intended for their words to be spoken by a cast full of men, but SMC’s Theatre Arts Department employs the talents of a predominantly female cast.

Breanna Wittman and Casey Masamitsu play reporters for the City Press and the Journal,  and articulate their lines with uninhibited cleverness and wit. Not to be upstaged by the ladies, the male players also provide notable performances.